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Deforestation in the Amazon is accelerating the point of no return

Posted on November, 08 2022

  • There is evidence that approximately 17% of the Amazon forests have been lost and an additional 17% are degraded.
  • Continuing to lose this biome would affect the livelihoods of around 47 million people, and would intensify the global climate emergency as it would make it impossible to keep planetary warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and would jeopardize food security in South America.
  • WWF launches the Living Amazon Report, which gathers the latest information on this region, its planetary importance, the threats it faces, and the solutions that require an unprecedented global commitment to stop its destruction.           
SHARM el-SHEIKH, Egypt. - A year has passed since the Science Panel for the Amazon (SPA) warned in Glasgow, UK, during COP26, that the Amazon was approaching a point of no return that could lead to the loss of the largest tropical forest and river system on the planet. However, during these 12 months, deforestation in the biome, instead of decreasing, on average has increased even more. Currently, approximately 17% of Amazon forests have been converted to other uses and an additional 17% are highly degraded. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is launching its Living Amazon Report 2022 at this decisive moment that could change the future of this region. The report proposes strategies that have the potential to reverse the current trend, and provides a way for governments, the private sector, and citizens in general to discover and marvel at the Amazon, learn from its challenges and contrasts, and be inspired to take urgent action for its conservation.
Due to its incredible biological diversity and cultural richness, represented by the 47 million people and 511 indigenous peoples groups that inhabit it, and its global importance as a climate regulator, the Amazon biome is of worldwide interest. However, the processes of deforestation, the degradation of its forests and rivers are taking the Amazon to a point of no return, according to the SPA. This no tipping point consists of the loss of humidity caused by climate change and deforestation, which causes a vicious cycle of progressive drying of the Amazon at a large scale, transforming it from a tropical rainforest to a dry forest or a degraded savannah.  The Amazon countries and the international community - especially those sectors whose actions have direct repercussions on the Amazon - have the possibility of ensuring that the Amazon will remain alive for many centuries to come, or can witness its farewell.
Reaching the point of no return would directly affect the livelihoods of the 47 million people living in the Amazon, 10% of the planet's biodiversity, and would aggravate the global climate  and biodiversity crises. The common goal of keeping global warming to 1.5°C cannot be met if this biome is lost, as it stores between 367 - 733 Gt of CO2 in its vegetation and soils, which exceeds the carbon budget available to meet this goal. The carbon stored for centuries in the Amazon is being released at an accelerated rate due to deforestation, fires, and degradation from unsustainable production activities. In other words, if we lose the Amazon, we would lose the opportunity to address the global climate crisis.
According to the report, threats to the integrity of the Amazon must be stopped through urgent measures, especially from governments and the private sector, and continue with sustainable development and conservation initiatives from civil society. The report proposes possible solutions that the WWF network, together with local and international partners, is supporting. These initiatives are aligned with the proposal to conserve 80% of the Amazon by 2025 that the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) presented in 2021, which was approved as a motion under IUCN and which WWF and others support. This goal requires urgent measures in the next 3 years to safeguard well-conserved areas and to restore lands with high degradation. Conserving 80% will require securing and extending a mosaic of protected areas and protected indigenous territories - at least half of the forest - equitably governed, effectively managed, and connected to landscapes managed with integrated approaches within a regional vision of conservation and sustainable development.
Saving the Amazon will require a high-level political commitment that directly addresses the main drivers of Amazon loss such as deforestation, illegal mining, corruption, indiscriminate use of fauna and other natural resources, and infrastructure planned without ecosystem considerations. This report urges governments to implement socio-economic policies compatible with nature and to control predatory activities; corporations to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains and ensure high socio-environmental standards; and financial institutions not to provide funds that lead to the destruction of the Amazon, as well as highlights the role of indigenous peoples and local communities, as well as of the international community in fostering a climate-resilient and just transition model for the Amazon.
During the launch event, a global call for key stakeholders from diverse sectors to join COICA’s 80x25 initiative to protect at least 80% of the Amazon was issued. Accomplishing this will require: a regional Pan-Amazonian vision with strengthened policies and institutions to implement it; 100% legal recognition, demarcation, and financing of indigenous peoples' territories; moratoria or other policies for halting deforestation, in particular, that which is carried out illegally and at a commercial scale, in primary forests, areas of high biological value, or areas that are already reaching local tipping points; foster a development model that stops the drivers of deforestation and degradation, and promotes deforestation-free supply chains; finance a large-scale ecological restoration program; protect biodiversity and threatened species, among other strategies.
"Meeting the 80x25 goal is part of a global effort to transition to an ecologically healthy Amazon. This requires a shift towards social equity, inclusive economic development, and global responsibility” remarked Kurt Holle, WWF’s Amazon Coordination Unit/ Peru Director. In the  context of global environmental change, “the Amazon is caught in the intersection between the climate and biodiversity crises, with the destruction of its ecosystems diminishing the possibility of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C” mentioned Roberto Troya, Regional Director for WWF Latin America and the Caribbean, adding that “urgent action is needed to avoid global repercussions and to ensure that this region can continue to regulate the planet’s climate and to provide environmental and cultural benefits to the world”. The Living Amazon Report 2022 calls on humanity to act now because the survival of the biome and the basin are running against the clock.

For further information please contact:
 Valeria Tamayo Cañadas, Communications Lead - Amazon Coordination Unit ACU WWF. | Cel +593 95942 1448
Additional information
About WWF
WWF is an independent conservation organization, with more than 35 million followers and a global network active through local leadership in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
About the Living Amazon Report
The Living Amazon Report is an effort of the WWF network to communicate about the state of the region, it invites us to think of a different Amazon, where humanity recognizes and acknowledges nature's richness, its ecosystem services, and that everything is interconnected so that what happens in the Amazon does not stop there, the biome generates services for all humanity. Living Amazon wants to inspire action beyond the borders of countries and to act urgently to save it.
 Deforestation in the Amazon is, accelerating the point of no return
Deforestation in the Amazon is, accelerating the point of no return
© Reportaje WWF El Pilchi / Joel Heim